Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti responds to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Assisted-death bill sends wrong message to Indigenous people, advocates say

The new bill imposes strict guidelines for people seeking assisted death as part of that category, including a 90-day waiting period

Assisted-dying legislation sends the wrong message to Indigenous communities, advocates said Tuesday as voices opposed to the bill continued to ring out on Parliament Hill.

Indigenous elders work hard to tell young people that suicide should not be an option, and the medical assistance in dying (MAID) bill says the opposite, said Tyler White, chief executive officer of Siksika Health Services, which provides health services to Indigenous communities in Alberta.

“Extraordinary efforts have been made in suicide prevention in our communities,” he said.

“The expansion of MAID sends a contradictory message to our peoples that some individuals should receive suicide prevention, while others suicide assistance.”

The new bill follows a Quebec court ruling striking down the existing legislation on medically assisted death on the grounds that it was too restrictive. The court gave the government until Dec. 18 to implement a new regime.

The Liberals’ offering, Bill C-7, expands the categories of those eligible for the procedure, opening it up to people whose deaths aren’t reasonably foreseeable.

The new bill imposes strict guidelines for people seeking assisted death as part of that category, including a 90-day waiting period.

Dr. Thomas Fung, a physician who works with Indigenous patients, said that is too short.

He cited the case of a patient of his with lung disease, who is short of breath doing even simple tasks. He needs oxygen at home but he isn’t eligible for government assistance to pay for it because his condition isn’t bad enough yet.

He could wait for that to happen, Fung said. But he could already be eligible for a medically assisted death under the new legislation.

It would “go against one’s conscience” to provide one, given there are other therapies that have not yet been tried and that could improve the patient’s life, Fung said.

But arranging the care the patient needs, such as counselling and medication, will take more time than the law allows, in part because of the rural setting.

“The 90-day waiting period is not enough time to give this patient the help he needs and I would argue not enough time for a lot of chronic conditions,” he said.

During community consultations on the bill earlier this year, the government heard from people in many Indigenous communities who had concerns with the legislation.

“Many spoke about the harmful experiences that Indigenous individuals have had with the health-care system,” said the government report on the consultations.

“This includes having procedures against their will. There are also ongoing challenges in getting culturally safe care.”

White also said doctor-assisted death runs contrary to Indigenous beliefs about life, and like some opponents of the bill, stressed the need for physicians to be able to object to providing it if it violates their consciences.

That is especially important in the context of also allowing Indigenous people the right to self-determination, he said.

“Efforts to suggest to our people that MAID is an appropriate end to life is a form of neo-colonialism,” he said.

Fung and White were part of a group of advocates who held a news conference on the bill Tuesday, the latest in a series of events organized by those opposed to many of the bill’s provisions.

Disability advocates, some of whom were also present Tuesday, are among those who have also opposed the bill, arguing it sends a message their lives have little value.

Mental health professionals have also voiced their concerns, arguing in recent days that the express exclusion of access to MAID by people suffering from mental illness amounts to discrimination.

Conservative, NDP and Bloc Québécois MPs have all introduced amendments to the bill, which is now being debated clause-by-clause in the justice committee.

The Senate study is happening at the same time, in a bid to help Parliament meet the Dec. 18 deadline.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19.  (File photo)
750 new COVID-19 cases identified in Alberta Sunday

Central zone currently has 1,182 active cases of the virus

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

(Via the Canadian Press)
Alberta monolith comes with message to save eastern slopes of Rocky Mountains

‘They deserve our attention. They warrant our protection. They are under threat’

A Suncor logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 2, 2019. A worker is missing after a dozer broke through ice on an inactive Suncor tailings pond in northern Alberta.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Worker missing after dozer breaks through frozen tailings pond in northern Alberta

The worker was an employee of Christina River Construction

File Photo
‘You took away some real joy,’ Sylvan Lake Winter Village turned off after vandalism

Sometime during the night of Jan, 12 the light display at the pier was vandalized and damaged

Most Read